Moroccan Rice

Rice

Here is a delicious side dish that’s full of flavor and very easy to make. I served it alongside a simple baked salmon drizzled with lemon — it was so good that the meal is now going to be a staple on our menu!

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup bell pepper, any color, chopped
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (regular paprika is OK)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. golden raisins (sultanas)
Fresh cilantro and parsley
Fresh lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, bring the oil up to medium-high heat.

Rinse the rice to remove excess starch and then add to the hot oil. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently until golden.

Meanwhile, in a blender, place the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and spices and puree. Add the mixture to the rice and cook for 4 minutes or until the color of the tomato deepens.

Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add the raisins and herbs, and serve with lemon wedges.

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Sausage Mushroom Alfredo Pasta

20140302_192956[1]This is an easy dish that you can prepare in as much time as it takes to cook the pasta. It calls for a jar of store-bought alfredo sauce, something I’m embarrassed to say that I used — but wow, does it make things simple. That means it’s a great dish to make on a weeknight. You could also use a homemade alfredo sauce on a night when you have more time. One tip: Chop the vegetables and grate the cheese as you wait for the pasta water to boil.

Serves 6

1 large leek, white and pale green part only, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 links mild Italian pork sausage (8 oz.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 oz. rigatoni pasta
8 oz. sliced baby Portobello mushrooms (use white if they aren’t available)
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic alfredo sauce
2 oz. parmesan cheese, grated

Start boiling the water for the pasta and cook as directed on the box. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and grate the cheese, then set aside. Remove the sausage casings by cutting the links in half lengthwise (butterfly them), then turning the sausage over and peeling the casings away.

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat, until browned and no longer pink. Remove to a bowl and add remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan, then add mushrooms and leeks. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until tender.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the wine or broth; simmer 2-3 minutes or until reduced by half.

Stir in alfredo sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in pasta and sausage and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

The recipe is adapted from one I found at Publix.

Egg Fried Rice

This recipe requires day-old cooked rice, preferably steamed, so it’s a great way to use any rice left over from Chinese take-out. That’s what I used the other day, along with some long-grain rice I happened to have in the fridge. I chopped a couple of carrots and threw them in, along with a handful of frozen peas and some canned water chestnuts. You can add whatever vegetables you like, whether chopped or sliced. Scale the recipe according to how much rice you have.

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1 Tbsp. peanut oil (substitute canola/rapeseed oil if you need to)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups cold steamed white rice
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1-2 tsp. sesame oil
Vegetables as above

Heat a wok or large pan over high heat until a drop of water vaporizes instantly upon contact. Add peanut oil, swirling to coat wok evenly, and heat until hot and just smoking. Add eggs, tilting wok and swirling eggs to form a thin, even layer on cooking surface, and cook 30 seconds, then add rice and salt and stir-fry, breaking up eggs and letting rice rest several seconds between stirs, until rice is hot, 2-3 minutes. Add scallions, sesame oil, and vegetables and stir-fry until combined well and heated through.

Couscous with Spinach, Golden Raisins, and Pine Nuts

Here is another wonderfully easy and delicious dish, with bursts of sweet, crunchy, and savory. It would taste wonderful alongside seasoned sausages, chicken with a creamy sauce, or crispy baked fish — which is how we had it tonight, together with broccoli.

IMAG2259Serves 4

200g (7 oz.) fresh spinach
2 Tbsp. golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. pine nuts (pine kernels)
1/2 chicken stock cube
200g (7 oz.) couscous
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Wash the spinach and place it immediately in a large pot over high heat. Remove from heat when the spinach is just wilted. (The water from washing it is all you need to wilt the leaves.)

Separately, heat 1 1/2 cups water and stir in the golden raisins. Stir and leave for a few minutes.

Heat the canola oil in a pan and stir-fry the pine nuts for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until golden. Remove the pine nuts with a slotted spoon, then set aside.

Boil 1 cup of water and drop the bouillon cube in to dissolve. Place the couscous, raisins, and pine nuts in a bowl, stir in the stock, and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir well and cover, then leave for 10 to 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

While you are waiting, finely chop the wilted spinach. When the couscous is done, mix in the spinach and add salt and pepper, if you feel it needs it. Serve right away.

Arancini

One of my favorite food memories of Italy are arancini, fried rice balls made with risotto and filled with a tomato-meat mixture. They’re from the south of Italy, and the first time I had one was in the Sicilian city of Siracusa, hot from a street stall. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside — what’s not to love?

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These are typically deep-fried. I don’t do deep frying, but I tried that method once and it was delicious. This time, to cut down on fat and have the arancini all ready at once, I decided to bake them. They turned out great, and just as delicious as the fried version, in my opinion, even if it’s not the authentic way to do it. I lay out both methods below.

Arancini have their name because they look like oranges (“arancini” means “little oranges” in Italian). In Siracusa, these rice balls were shaped like cones, served in paper so they were easy to eat by hand. I was told that’s because they were an ancient votive offering at the Greek temples, and the cone shape, with its flat bottom, made them easy to leave on the steps.

The recipe requires a lot of cooking ahead of time, so make sure to plan for that. But it’s easy to put together at the end. I served these as an entree alongside vegetables and a salad, with leftover filling on the side. Serve them with a tomato sauce if you find that too plain. Enjoy!

Makes about 15

5 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2 cups risotto
6 eggs — 3 whole, 3 beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 lb. (110g) butter (one stick)
Pinch of white pepper and salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 lb. (110g) ground/minced beef or turkey
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 lb. (110g) white or button mushrooms, chopped fine
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 Tbsp. white wine
1/2 cup canned peas, well drained
2 cups breadcrumbs
48 oz. (1.4 liters) vegetable oil (use only if frying the arancini)

A few hours ahead of cooking, make the risotto. In a large pot, bring water to a boil, then add the salt and the risotto. Stir well, cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until al dente.

When rice is done cooking, drain very, very well. Return to the pot and add the 3 whole eggs, cheese, butter, a pinch of salt and white pepper. Mix well and set aside to cool. Rice should stand firm; if it is too moist, it will be difficult to handle.

When you’re ready to cook, make the filling. (If baking the arancini, set the oven now to 425F/220C degrees.) Place a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil and allow to warm. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add meat, salt, and pepper; break up meat and let brown. Add chopped mushrooms and mix well.

Add tomatoes, allspice, and wine. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the mixture glops together and shows no real trace of liquid. Add peas and mix.

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Now make an assembly line. Next to the rice, have the meat mixture, then the bowl with the beaten eggs, then the bowl with breadcrumbs. If baking, have two ungreased baking sheets ready. If frying, lay out some plates.

Place about 3 Tbsp. rice in the palm of your hand. Press with your thumb to make a dent, being careful not to press all the way through. Fill the dent with about a teaspoon of meat mixture.

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Cover the filling with additional rice to make a ball, then press firmly so no filling shows. (Tip: Add the additional rice in a ring around the filling, then cover the top. This helps prevent the meat mixture from spilling out.)

Dip the balls in beaten eggs, then roll in breadcrumbs. Lay the balls on either the cookie sheets, slightly spaced apart, or plates.

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If baking, put the arancini in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until just browned.

If frying, place a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium heat, then add enough oil to cover the arancini. Heat the oil and drop the arancini in the hot oil. Do not allow them to touch. Fry until golden brown, then remove and allow to drain on a paper towel. Serve hot.

Spicy Southern Rice with Beans and Sausage

IMAG1949This is easy and delicious comfort food that you can make as mild or spicy as you like. I got this recipe years ago from a food company brochure — the kind where they call for their own brand ingredients even though you can use any brand.

I didn’t know what to call this recipe. The brochure called it “Spicy Cuban Stir-Fry,” but I don’t know enough about Cuban food to know whether it qualifies, and I didn’t want to offend anyone. Rice with beans is pretty Southern anyway, so there you go.

This would be a good way to use up leftover rice. And it’s ready in only 30 minutes.

2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 lb. sausage meat (I used mild Italian sausage, but use a spicier kind if you want more heat. I also used packaged ground sausage meat. If you can only find regular sausages, remove the casings and crumble the meat with your fingers.)
1 1.25 oz. packet taco seasoning mix*
The juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for sauteeing
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (omit if you want a milder dish)
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 11-oz. can corn kernels, drained
2 cups firmly packed fresh spinach, torn in rough pieces

In a medium saucepan, combine water and salt. Bring to a boil, then stir in rice and cover. Lower heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is cooked. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the sausage meat, taco seasoning mix, lime juice, 1 Tbsp. oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

In a large wok or 12-inch skillet, add a tablespoon or two of oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add sausage mixture and cook about 5 minutes or until sausage is cooked through.

Stir in cooked rice, beans, and corn and cook for about 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and cook until it just begins to wilt.

*For those overseas who may not find taco seasoning packets in the store, here’s a recipe I found so you can make your own.

Thai Rice Noodles with Mustard Greens

A quick and easy Thai noodle dish that works really well with this Thai-style curried catfish, another quick and easy dish.

8 oz. wide, flat Thai rice noodles
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large clove of garlic
Approximately 2-inch round piece of fresh ginger
1/2 lb. mustard greens
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tsp. Asian fish sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
2 green onions
2 red chilies, seeded and sliced thinly on the diagonal
1/4 cup plucked cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves
2 limes, cut into wedges

Soak the dry noodles in hot water for 20 minutes or until softened. Drain before cooking.

Rinse the mustard greens well, then slice the stems and leaves 1-inch wide. Finely chop the garlic. Peel and thinly slice the ginger, then stack the slices and shred them finely. Cut the green onions into 1/4-inch lengths.

Ten minutes before serving time, heat a large frying pan or wok. Add the oil, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry until fragrant, then add the mustard greens. Stir for five minutes or so, until the mustard greens have reduced in size but aren’t yet wilted.

Add the oyster and fish sauces, plus a couple of tablespoons of water, and stir. Add the drained noodles, green onions, red chilies, and stir. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed.

When ready to serve, garnish with cilantro leaves.